Kent RFU Ladies v East Midlands RFU Ladies
Kent welcomed East Midlands to the Anchorians Ground at Gillingham. The weather was pleasant but the wind was blowing quite ferociously at times, swirling down the Thames Estuary towards the North Sea.
East Mids kicked with the wind against them, the ball wen high but travelled back across the half way, not going the required 10 metres. Kent’s scrum which has been powerful in the first 2 pool games again proved to be a force to be reckoned with, however a knock on resulted in a scrum to the visitors.
Although the Kent ladies powered forwards again, the ball went out and Bree Hill was so close to the intercept when the ball slipped forward. It was to be a scrappy affair, the wind proving to be a factor in the way the game shaped out.
The front row of Vicky Black, Phia McGauley and Sarah Moorhouse were supported by the boiler house of Zoe Hill and Stefanie “Bruce” Purdy. Kent’s back row were most impressive in previous matches and Beccy Penfold at 7, Shaunie Brown at 6 and Georgia Barrand at 8. They never took a step backwards.
Play was scrappy and nervous, as much for the coaches as the players, both teams were using a blitz defence and cancelled each other out to a great degree. Eventually, a turnover by Shaunie led to some exquisite handling skills to allow our returning winger Aegean Leech to dance through the East Mids defence and go over 15 metres in from the left-hand wing. 5 – 0 to Kent.
At the kick off the ball went long, caught by the nimble Kent scrum half- Becca ‘Ginge’ Guild, who off-loaded to Shaunie on the burst through the middle passing to Georgia (Geo) Gray in the centre. The play was promising but a turnover meant that East Mids caught the Kent defence napping, reminding the home team that it only takes seconds to score a try from a turnover, the East Mids winger had enough pace to get to the Kent try line. 5-5.
Bree kicked off, and the Kent ladies blitz defence worked, Captain Lizzy Nicholl put in a big hit, turnover and the ball went along the line but stopped in the East Mids 22, they were adjudged offside and a penalty was handed to the forwards, an offload to Geo and she danced through the defence, spinning and under the posts for the try. Bree nonchalantly dropped a kick for the conversion, 12-5 to the home team.
Kent kept up the pressure in the East Mids 22, a succession of penalties resulted in a yellow card to East Mids, a quick tap to Shaunie who exploded across the try line for her first try of the day. Bree slotted the conversion, 19-5.
East Midlands demonstrated why most of their results so far had been close, they pushed up and got a try, the conversion crept over the bar to bring them to within 7 points at 19-12.
Another kick off and the ball was caught by East Mids, breaking through to the last person standing Beth Pickernell, our faithful full back, a crunching tackle into touch and a Kent throw in. The wind again played its part in frustrating the put in at the line out. Resulting in a scrum, the Kent pack continued their domination of the scrum driving over and regaining possession. The ball popped up to Bruce our second row who powered through the defence but was subject of a crunching tackle. The ball spilled and East Mids had possession again. A further turnover at the scrum and the ball was picked up and ground gained again into the East Mids 22. Several pick up and drives by the forwards resulted in Shaunie going over for her second try of the half. 24-12 at the interval.
Georgia Barrand had had to leave the pitch with a broken finger, which was a huge disappointment to both her and the supporters, she being a strong ball carrier. It goes without saying that we hope Georgia makes a speedy recovery and can grace the field again soon.
2nd half, had a scrappy start and East Mids had a scrum in their half, Rebecca Laherne was the subject of the greatest cheer of the game, watching the majesty of a tighthead prop sprinting a full 40 metres leaving opponents in her wake was a joy to behold. Shaunie picked up the offload only to then have been adjudged to have put a foot in touch. East Mids took possession and kicked Kent back to the 22, a lineout caught and driven by the Kent ladies, orchestrated by Rebecca Broadhurst and Faye Easton was brought down, the ball came back and Bree put the home team into their guest’s half.
One of the most impressive elements of the Kent game was the scrum, a 5-metre scrum and the forwards powered over for a push over try, touched down by none other than Shaunie out to the left of the posts about 10 metres in. The wind was still gusting and made it extremely difficult for kicking and the conversion was heading in the right direction when a gust took it to the left.
The weather affected each team’s ability to get the game flowing and after another spell of toing and froing, East Mids secured a lineout on the Kent 5 metre line. What followed then would have been described by Bill Maclaren as a “little bit of argy bargy” between the two hookers who were both invited to leave the pitch to cool down in the sin bin. Both teams reduced to 14 players for 10 minutes. East Mids took advantage of the situation and went over for their third try, making the score 29-17.
Following the kick off, the East Mids team gathered and their outside centre made a break, the last line of defence was Beth, a battle of who wants it most then unfolded, the East Mids player thinking she would get past Beth, who punches so much above her weight, tackled her to the floor, preventing the off load in the process.
During the next phase of play there was an almighty collision between Georgia Gray Kent’s inside centre and one of the East Mids players, unfortunately, Georgia took a significant hit to the head leading to a concussion. Players from both sides signalled immediately to the referee who stopped play. The collision was nasty and we now know that Georgia suffered a concussion and whiplash injuries, our best wishes go to her for a speedy recovery. It is also worthy of note that our returning winger Aegean Leech who scored in the first half had passed an HIA assessment earlier but was clearly in discomfort and came off, I am relieved to report that her head injury, whilst keeping her out of the rest of the tournament is likely to allow her to return in September.
The Captains and the referee discussed the position, East Mids asked to carry on playing even though there were only 12 minutes left on the clock, the game switched across the lane to the adjacent pitch.
Kent took advantage of the chaos and the game restarted with a scrum, resulting in a penalty. Bree eased the ball deep into the 22 and the forwards drove the lineout right to the line, Vicky Black became the first Old Elthamians lady to score a try for Kent bursting through by the right-hand touch line. 34-17
In the next phase of play Kent recovered the ball, another lineout in the 22, several phases of forward play and the ball was spun out to the backs, not a mean feat given the strength of the wind against the direction of pass, through Bree to Lizzy Nicholl who dotted it down to the right of the uprights allowing Bree to finish the game with a conversion, the final score Kent 41, East Mids 17.
Onwards to the semi-finals, what a great effort by all in the squad, especially those waiting patiently to get their chance to grace the field, it will come.